We open this Snippets with a series of articles that looks at the impending global food consumption crisis and the predictions that we are nearing its tipping point as well as some additional stories that may lead the world in a more secure direction, as far as food supply is concerned.
Consumers eat (well not literally) a gallon (approximately 4.0 litres) of diesel, 63 pounds (28 kilograms) of soil and over two tons of water in the form of food each day – something we thought was quite a staggering statistic. In addition to this, we are losing about 75 to 100 billion tons of soil each year, which only serves to reduce the ability of the world to feed itself.
Although some of these headlines highlight the problems being encountered, there are however viable alternatives. For example, there are 25,000 edibles plants on earth and 99% of them are unfamiliar to most people. For instance our trans-Tasman neighbour Australia has 6,100 edible plants but only five or six are currently consumed by humans.
This leads into our next story which examines agricultural production in Brazil and how it could change the dynamics of world's food supply. The Cerrado is a wide savannah that covers nearly a quarter of the country. Once considered unfit for agriculture due to its poor soil quality is now set to challenge the United States as the breadbasket of the world. This transformation certainly hasn't happened overnight but has taken decades of preparation, R&D and training to come to fruition.
Another example of food being produced in a climate considered barren, is in a location three hours from Adelaide in Australia. Using a green house, parabolic mirrors to harness energy from the sun and salt water ‘Suncorp' are producing perfect pesticide free vegetables. Using the sun to desalinate seawater (which the world certainly is not short of) to irrigate plants, and maintain ideal growing temperatures all year round can only be seen as offering the possibility of producing crops in many locations never considered before.
Our next article examines two countries energy visions - one considered developed (Australia) and the other developing - the economic power house China. Australia appears to be adopting the route of becoming the alternative Saudi Arabia of gas, focusing on gas and petroleum and coal for export, i.e. an almost exclusive fossil fuel approach and largely ignoring options for renewable energy. China on the other hand has taken a completely different approach as it clearly views its energy security as the most fundamental feature to its future prosperity and that renewables are the path to securing this. Consequently China is building renewable energy industries as fast as is economically possible - 100GW for wind (double the current capacity), 21 GW for solar (seven fold increase) along with massive spending on the power grid.
Staying with energy visions and alternatives, Microsoft is working with US firm ‘Fuelcell Energy' to produce biogas from a waste water treatment plant in Wyoming utilising a fuel cell. The initial trial will see one of Fuelcell Energy's 200kW direct Fuelcell's systems deployed at the treatment facility with any excess electricity being supplied to the grid and heat used elsewhere in the process.
Staying with the theme of alternative or renewable energy, a recent report suggests savings of $23 billion over 20 years being achievable here in New Zealand if we are prepared to invest $5.5 billion in smart grid technology. The report is based on a study of technology deployed in the United States, substantial wind and wave resources and a continuation of decreasing costs of photovoltaics. The report also cited New Zealand's small size and relative quick decision making processes as reasons why this country could lead the way.
Concerningly, our next article highlights a recent study published in the journal Science, which has confirmed that more than 4 trillion tonnes of ice from Greenland and Antarctica has melted in the past 20 years. Unsurprisingly, this has caused sea levels to rise by 11mm over 20 years. The World Bank has acknowledged that keeping future global warming below 2 degrees Celsius may be in the “too hard basket” and scenarios are being looked at for a 3 or even 4 degrees target. In light of this, the World Bank has undertaken analysis on the consequences of a 4 degree rise in global temperatures by 2100 – as the article suggests the findings should shock us into action. More often than not the bridging of ideas to translated negatives to positives are sadly lacking in many cases, particularly climate change.
However our next article discusses the possibilities of economic opportunity and challenges to seize new openings of green growth and technologies. Turning a 3 or 4 degrees scenario into something positive might be the best we can hope and strive for.
Recently, the Sustainable Business Network held their annual awards night in Auckland with Villa Maria Estate being named the Sustainable Business of the Year. As a member of SBN we would like to congratulate all the award winners, with particular commendation to one of our clients Unitec Institute of Technology. Well done to all.
We would like to use this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year break from the ETSL team and take the opportunity to offer a friendly reminder to “switch off” office equipment, adjust the BMS settings/ time clocks in your facilities and to flick off those switches at home if you are leaving town. That and have a great break and hope that the predictions of good weather over the break come to pass.